Sunday, 27 October 2013


Today I am posting a review for The Review Blog's Halloween Creepfest. Endurance is Tom Blake's first novel which he has published independently. Tom, 20,  asked me to review it to coincide with his giveaway for The Face Book event.
Author T J Blake

Endurance follows the traumatic experiences of Thomas Williams as he fights to survive an alien attack on London. For Tom, the day the attack started was a special day. He was going to propose to his girlfriend, Anna, but suddenly, as he kneels before her, she is tragically snatched from him in a devastating accident as the attack from above begins to reign down bullets and bombs on the people of London. Hardly able to believe what has happened, Tom sifts through the rubble and the ruins of the city he once lived in, trying his best to survive the alien attacks as well as an infected population on the ground who's ravaged bodies and minds are crazed with a rage they cannot contain. But as the story develops - all is not as it seems. Just who is behind the destruction of London and the world? Who are these aliens that seem to be targeting him? And is he going insane? Has he been plunged into a living nightmare or is it really just a dream - a horrible, freakish dream that he cannot discern what or who is real and what or who isn't. These are all questions that will plague the reader throughout; keeping them turning the page, eager to find out what is going to happen next. This book is aimed at a YA audience, however I am certainly far from being a young adult and I very much enjoyed it.

This book is not for the faint-hearted. The author spares no detail of the gore and devastation of maimed and polluted bodies. Here is one of the milder examples of the book.

"Continuing to jog, with a slight limp, he got closer and closer to the screams. The screams turned from an echo to a solid sound. Soon, Tom saw the screaming woman. She was crawling with one arm and no legs; her face was covered in blood and looked as if it’d been scraped along the concrete-strewn ground. Her screams rang through Tom’s ears. The sight made him queasy. He ran toward her."

I am not averse to gore - but there is a lot, so if you're not into blood, guts and more, this book may not be good for you, however that would be a shame because it has a most original plot and runs at a fast pace so there are no boring or dull bits. There are times in the book when you think, I've got a handle on the plot now and then in the next few pages, you're thwarted. The author's ability to keep you guessing is what drives this novel forward and there is no time to waste thinking about it; no resting on one's laurels, for before you know it you're running with the main character - running for your life. This young author has something that a lot of other writers don't; an ability to draw the reader in so that you are there, midst the scenery and the extras. Like a movie filmed in 3D  it hits you right in the eye, engulfs you in it's ectoplasm and transports you to another world.

Although this book is exciting, scary and horrific, it would really benefit from a professional edit and I know that Tom Blake has taken this on board. It's no mean feat to write a book at 20, edit it and publish it yourself and Tom has written a very readable book. A professional edit would be the icing on the cake for me and I hope by the time he has written the sequel, which is coming, I hope that it will be a very special cake indeed.

Generously, Tom is going to make his book free to download on the 31st of October. So pop that in your diary or mark it on your calendar. Go on what have you got to lose?

You will be able to download Endurance form this link for free on the 31st of October but if you can't wait till then, why not buy it now!!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Promise by Kevin Ashman

For the start of our Halloween Creepfest, here is a short story of revenge from beyond the grave by Kevin Ashman.  

I opened my eyes, or at least I thought I did, but if I had thought harder I would have realised they were already open, it was just that I couldn’t see anything. Not that I cared, it was the last thing on my mind. All I could remember were the beautiful memories of the wedding ceremony with Lisa, the most beautiful girl in the world.
It had been a magical few days, the best of my life. Azure Jamaican sunsets and sweet scents of sunshine fruits were flavoured with sounds of steel drums and reggae rhythms.  The time when all my hopes and dreams had come true and I had finally married the woman of my dreams, no, not just of my dreams but of my very being, my soul, my life.
All my life I had been around her, drawn in by her aura. Throughout infant school I had followed her around the playground like a needy puppy, joining enthusiastically in her childish games. Primary school was a world of wonder that we discovered together, the closest of friends, with adventures shared and futures still too distant to be contemplated. Our teen years tried hard to alter our relationship and though teenage culture demanded we sought the fellowship of our peers, we still glanced at each other across crowded dance floors, often walking home together yet saying goodbye at her garden gate before talking into the small hours on the phone.
She had a boyfriend once, encouraged almost rabidly by her friends and I hated him with a vengeance, yet even when they finished a few days later, I still shied away from asking her out, terrified of rejection, not realising that these were sentiments she also shared.
But eventually, the inevitable happened and something special developed. I still remember that starlit night, when I paused at her gate a moment too long. That awkward few seconds, that void of silence, crying out to be filled. Waiting for me to scream out as loud as I could,
Don’t you know how much I Love you? Don’t you know how much I want to take you in my arms and hold you until the stars above burn themselves out?  How I want to spend the rest of eternity alongside you, looking at you, knowing you, loving you?'
But I didn’t shout out, and neither did she, but what she did do was something else, something completely different, something infinitely better. She tiptoed up and kissed me gently on the lips.
That was the beginning of my life, the day I was really born, the point at which my existence took on meaning. Since then, I smile at the oft asked question, What is love? The answer is easy, It is lisa. She is the very essence of love and nothing in the universe exists apart from my love for her. I will live for her, die for her for she is now the sole reason I exist in this suffocating yet intoxicating entrancement.
The wedding had been everything we had dreamed of, and, having decided to wait until our wedding night to consummate the marriage, was a sensory overload of love and tenderness. We found each other at last, physically, mentally and emotionally while the world stood still, waiting for us to see it again. The moonlit walks, the starlit passion. Days filled with laughter and nights filled with wonder. This was it, the very reason I had been put on this earth by whatever entity existed up there.
That had been an age ago. Why had it stopped, what had I done so wrong to deserve this. Why did the cruel hand of fate deal such a devastating blow?
Everything had been perfect that night, the last night of our honeymoon and we had returned early to our chalet on the beach, keen to spend our last night alone before leaving this paradise.
They shouldn’t have been there, they had no right. My mind had span as it struggled to take in the situation, the shouts of the attackers and the screams of my beloved. The struggle, the noise, the flash of light…….the pain.
But it was as nothing compared to the pain that followed, the pain of seeing her dragged off by the two men to a lustful fate. The pain of trying to move, to help her, to rescue her from harm, unable to move yet conscious to what they intended What sort of husband was I who could not even protect my wife in the first weeks of our union. The world became dark and the last thing I heard was her voice calling my name, begging me to help.
How long had I lain there, summoning my will to overcome my bodies limitations. It had taken time but love conquers all, a triumph of mind over matter, love over hate. I knew that at last I would be able to do it. To rise again and seek her out and take her once more in my arms, and this time, no gun on this earth would stop me joining my love.
Gradually, as my consciousness returned, so did my strength, though how such malnourished muscles could even summon any power whatsoever was beyond me. First the movement of a finger, forcing its way past its neighbour, encouraging its fellows to join it in its task. Then my hand became free and clawed at the surrounding dankness, forcing its way upwards through the cloying blanket of hopelessness. Finally, with a flourish that mirrored the birth of a baby, my hand pushed forth to pierce the cool Caribbean night, breaking free of the shallow grave where I had lain for the last two months.
‘Don’t worry, Lisa,’ I thought as the soil fell from my empty eye sockets, ‘I’m coming to get you.’

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Why I think British History should be taught in our primary schools

The anniversary of the Battle of Hasting looms and 1066 is one of those dates that almost everyone knows of but not necessarily what happened or why it happened. Ask an English person when the Battle of Hastings took place, most will know that it took place in 1066 but who fought who and why is less known. Many children these days are not taught about this pivotal event in English history although I know from my own experience as a mum that my children, who have all gone through school now, were taught about the Anglo-Saxons in primary school only. But what did those primary school children actually learn about the Anglo Saxons? Do they retain any of that knowledge as they grow up as to who those funny Germanic people actually were – do they actually realise that they were the original ‘English’, the ancestors of today’s English. I see that the Key stage 1 curriculum has been disapplied which means that now teachers are free to design their own curriculum to suit their pupils needs. What a shame that the history of this land might be subject to the whims of teachers who may think that British history is not relevant to today's school children and many schools with large ethnic minorities. Not that I think that this is what will happen, but it is no longer a given that pupils will learn the chronological history of the land in which they live. This might sound un PC to you, but how better to create a sense of cohesiveness and a sense of belonging than by everyone, no matter what their ethnic background, learning and participating in history lessons, taking part in trips to wonderful castles and other living history exhibits that facilitate learning in an exciting, interactive and interesting way? The children of these migrant families, whatever their generation, may one day have descendants who will intermarry. The likelihood of this is quite high. Of course our history is relevant to them and to those who might also not intermarry.  As a re-enactor I want to share the  history I portray with those who live with side by side with me in this land as much as I like to learn about the culture of others I meet in my everyday life.

History is important and relevant because it helps us to learn from the past – so that we do not have to bear witness to the same scenes of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man time and time again; atrocities that have plagued humankind since man fought his way out of the primordial ooze. I know that time has shown that we don't learn completely, but small changes can make big differences and maybe now, in this century, it is time that we made a start. Children hopefully will never again be forced down coal mines or chimneys. What we have learned from the first and second world wars, stopped Nazism from holding dominion over society again. It still exists, but it doesn’t flourish like it did in the earlier half of the last century. Ethnic cleansing reared its ugly head back in the 90’s with Bosnia and Kosovo, but although slow to react, the world has shown their disapproval of such acts. Then there are still the dreadful inter-tribal wars going on in some parts of Africa, the problems in Syria, Palestine and Iraq - just a few that make me want to weep with frustration at the hopelessness of it all. But we are a work in progress and what are we if we don’t know our past? How then can we protect our future?

So if you believe that British history is important to all the children of this land then please share this post. Let’s share our different cultures together and make our future a lot brighter. 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Well, it's that time of the year again, when all sense of respect, manners and decent human qualities appear to be thrown as caution to the wind. Well, it doesn't always have to be August the 22nd for there to be insults flying between the Tudorites and the Ricardians, but the anniversary of Bosworth seems to bring out the worse in everyone and if you're a little obsessed with either of these two men, or unhinged in some way,like the woman who recently showed herself up on someone's timeline, then all hell breaks out on that fabulous medium that we know and love - Facebook. It never ceases to amaze me how people in these FB groups go way over what I consider to be healthy in their quest to defend or promulgate their love for their idols to the extent that they will jump in on threads in groups that they don't normally post to make insulting, provocative and disrespectful remarks, even on people's own timelines which is very rude in my view. What is this about Henry and Richard that inspire such childish and awful behaviour in supposedly adult, intelligent people? Ok so we all have our own views of each man, but for goodness sake, they've been dead for more than 500 years! We only know them in the sense of what has been written about them and there has been a lot of differing opinions about them over the years.

For a long time, the Richard III Society and other organisations have done their best to reform his character, perhaps to the point of over compensating for Richard's previously maligning by Shakespeare and Moore et al. They have found rationales for his execution without trial of Will Hastings, his declaration his wife's mother being dead when she wasn't, and reasons why he couldn't have possibly killed his nephews, pointing the finger at either Buckingham or Margaret Beaufort. The Henrians on the other hand state that this airy fairytale Richard who could actually do no wrong was not quite the darling all the Ricardians were making him out to be and they too then came up with rationales. Little Margaret Beaufort couldn't have possibly have done it, after all she neither had the motive nor the means, did she. And of course, as far as they're concerned, Richard had all the motives and not only that, he wasn't a very nice chap for not giving Hastings a trial and where was the loyalty he was supposed to have shown his brother all his life when he stole the crown from his twelve year old nephew? And of course over the years there has been argument for and against these two chaps, counter-arguments follow and follow and we see the two factions going round in circles with their arguments with neither side capitulating to the other. None-the-less, I do believe there were a few little victories as some staunch Ricardians began to see the arguments that the Henrians were putting forth as actually holding some weight, including me. Having said that I've never considered myself a Ricardian in the sense that I'm a fully paid up Richard III Society member but from my twenties when I read the wonderful  The Sunne in Spleandour by the lovely Sharon Kay Penman and then went on to read other  non-fiction books about him to read the 'facts', I was fiercely pro-Richard. Nowadays, I'm not totally convinced that he didn't murder his nephews, either indirectly or directly. However nor can I be sure that it wasn't Margaret Beaufort. Anyway, I'm no longer under the impression that he was the Mills and Boon Richard who rescued his lady love from a Cinderella style scenario and had perfectly good reasons for all the bad things he did after his brother's death, though I am sure that he probably did in his eyes.

Now Henry, he was not a total good bean either, was he? He predated his reign from the day before
Bosworth so he could confiscate the lands of all those  who fought against him, thus disinheritng their children. Not really fair that, was it. He also had young Edward of Warwick executed, but at least he had a trial to which he pleaded guilty to plotting with Perkin Warbeck. It was also thought that he may have been a little simple and naive because he had been kept imprisoned for so long. His was a sad story.  Apparently he executed poor John of Gloucester, Richard's bastard son after giving him an annuity of £20 pounds a year. But as for his execution, the only source that sites it is a 17thc one, and even then the author doesn't directly name him, referring to him as a base-born son of Richard III. So we cannot be sure that Henry did indeed execute him. There are no records of John's death. But on the whole, Henry was an astute statesman, creating stability in the country and created prosperity and secured his crown through his enactments against livery and maintenance so that the barons would be unable to keep large numbers of retainers effectively forming private armies. Despite these qualities, he was said to have been rapacious in his financial dealings which enabled him to amass great wealth at the expense of others.

So here we have two very different men, one a warrior and one a statesman. Both were kings. The why's and the wherefores as to who deserved the crown more are as irrelevant today as a betamax recorder. It has happened; they happened. It's over. Why do people have to get at one another in such a ridiculously childish, irreverent manner. Ok so, you like Henry? I like Richard. Who cares? It's great to commemorate our idols lives but why does one party or the other feel the necessity to insult and goad and bitch at the other?

I was talking to a WOR re-enactor (he wanted to remain nameless) today and I asked him if there existed the same animosity in the society between the various factions and this is what he said: "There is *absolutely none*, that I've ever seen. You can't afford to hold grudges against people who are going to be swinging steel weaponry at you. Generally, you tend to be 'mates' within your own household/retinue but get on civilly (with the occasional bit of joshing or reminders of past embarrassments) with other groups."

As I am also a re-enactor and he asked me if the Saxons hated the Vikings and I said there is never any animosity between any of us, we share a love of history, despite which side we like to fight on, its never personal. Its history we portray, not long forgotten personal vendettas and enmities.

It seems that perhaps when people are on Facebook, sitting at the computer and looking at a screen, they lose all sense of propriety. I'll admit, I'm no saint, I'm not above the odd debate and I'm not above letting someone know if I think they've been downright malicious and nasty but a lot of these people I've noticed hide behind pictures of flowers or cartoons, it makes me wonder what they've got to hide. I've even seen people go onto Fan pages on FB and expect to have a serious historical debate! It's a fan page for goodness sake! This is so disrespectful to the author and the people who run it. It's the height of rudeness if you ask me. People should leave the historical debates to the serious historical debating groups and if you're brave enough to go into one of those then expect to be pounced on if your view is different from theirs. But some people thrive on this kind of debate and that's fine, I guess I'm a bit feint hearted when it comes to serious historical debate.

So,  what do I think of these two men? I have a lot to learn about Henry and have on my tbr list The Winter King which I am told is very good. I'm yet to find him vaguely interesting, inspiring or mildly amusing even. He appears to be very bland really but  one thing that I did hear about him was that he loved Elizabeth his wife and was desperately sad when she died. That touched me and maybe that's a good place to start.

 I still admire Richard and consider myself pro-him, but mostly I admire his skills and generalship as a soldier. It is this quality that interests me most and he was as I like to call him, a Bad Ass. In truth though, there were a lot of worse things done by other kings. Look at the brutal way Edward I behaved toward the Scottish and the Welsh, not to mention his own people. Anyway that's another blog, he he!

So just so you know, all this is my own work and if I have made any errors, they are mine and no one else's.

Saturday, 17 August 2013


Fabulous body artist and book illustrator Gayle worked with me on my first novel Sons of the Wolf and has been working really hard on the illustration for the cover of the sequel, The Wolf Banner. Thanks Gayle for allowing me to interview you on my blog. Gayle is a good friend of mine and we met through our mutual love of historical re-enactment. apart from being an amazingly talented artist, she's pretty deadly with a 9ft spear and has killed me many a time on the battle field.

So Gayle, how long have you been involved in re-enactment? On and off for around twenty years re-enacting different time periods. I much prefer the Dark Ages though.
Do you find that re-enacting helps you in your work as an artist? Everything helps being an artist.I really enjoy this time period so working with you on your cover has been great fun.
Apart from your career and re-enactment, you have lots of hobbies. Can you tell us about some of them? I enjoy so many things there is never enough time (or paper) for them. I spend time boxing and target rifle shooting, off roading and camping.There are also so many hobbies within re-enactment.
You're mum to a gorgeous little boy. With your busy schedule, how do you fit everything in? I'm not really sure, I think great support from my family and friends.He joins in with most of my hobbies, and enjoys them as much as i do.
Can you tell us about Steel Point and what makes it different from other Tattoo Parlours? At Steel Point we pride ourselves on
being friendly and professional and can cater for every style, we enjoy designing custom pieces. We excel in good work and customer care, it's a great environment for us and the customers and the atmosphere makes it a pleasure to come in every day.
Before and after cover-up
What is the funniest/interesting piece of artwork you've ever had to do? I once did a roast chicken on a girl's bum, full colour with steam and all.  
What's your favourite style? Can we see some images? All styles are fun to do, colour, black and grey. I love a challenge, I especially love cover-ups and repair work. also as a qualified paramedical tattoo artist I do a lot of cosmetic work as well. The picture right is of a cover up I've recently done.
You have a great team working for you at Steel Point, can you tell us about them? They are really the best, Mark, Nadz and York are amazing artists, Mark is our traditional and flash artist and also our piercer. Nadz is great for fantasy work and York totally owns script work and all writing styles. Anna and Trevor keep it all together, they are our awesome trainees and assistant piercers. They really couldn't be a better team!
What inspires you when you are working on the illustrations for my novel? Luckily I have all the benefit of the photos from all the Regia events and a love of the period. I think even you are in one of the pictures in kit, though you wouldn't know it unless I pointed it out to you?A lot of the drawings are inspired by actual people and places. I have even asked friends to model for inspiration. It's a lot of fun and I look forward to doing more.

It's been great having you work on them, I couldn't ask for a more talented illustrator! One more thing, what sort of books do you like to read? Sci-fi and fantasy, I really enjoyed your book.
The Steel Point team

Steelpoint are based in Croydon, South London. To learn more about Gayle and her teams’ work at Steel Point, visit  and check out the fabulous website there.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013


Grace Elliot is in my spotlight this week, her latest novel, Verity's Lie is now out!

Grace Elliot leads a double life as a veterinarian by day and author of historical romance by night. Grace lives near London and is passionate about history, romance and cats! She is housekeeping staff to five cats, two sons, one husband and a bearded dragon (not necessarily listed in order of importance). “Verity’s Lie” is Grace’s fourth novel.

Verity’s Lie - Synopsis      

Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent.

In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.

When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. So if Lord Ryevale can lie, so can she… with disastrous consequences.



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Grace on Twitter:        @Grace_Elliot


Monday, 17 June 2013

A Beautiful Analysis of my novel Sons of the Wolf by Lisl Zlitini

Whispers in the Wind: Sons of the Wolf

The above link is the most beautiful review I have ever read for a book. That it happens to be mine is by the by - but I am so grateful and lucky to have had this lady review my book for my IndieBRAG Blog Tour

Here are some highlights of the review

"In the course of the novel readers learn of other familial secrets, seamlessly revealed by Lofting in her characters’ dialogue–knots that smoothly reveal themselves–and sudden, dramatic actions and events. Like the tapestry depicting the lives and meanings of their ancestors’ world, Lofting skillfully portrays that of the Horstedes in scenes otherwise reminiscent of a typical day or evening, yet with so much meaning infused within. As Ealdgytha, Wulfhere’s beautiful but unhappy wife awaits his return,
[p]art of her was missing. Somewhere in her mind she had closed a door, locking inside the thoughts she did not want to think and the feelings she could not bear to feel.[. . . ] Then, at hearth time, she sat by the fire, chatting quite animatedly away to Gunnhild about her new pregnancy.
This scene sewn into a tapestry would reveal little to an examiner, for who can see into hearts embroidered into material? Like the multitudes of others we encounter in passing each day, these people we might see, but what lives in their hearts and minds lay unknown to us even sadly, when we blow off the dust and bring our open hearts to the examination. Or perhaps, like Ealdgytha, we see something we recognize but wish to dismiss and carelessly toss the remnants of our ancestors into coffers and chests."
'Lofting has allowed us, too, to be passionate observers rather than passive ones, because she has brought to life an era shrouded in the mystery of the unknown. With such a distance as nearly a thousand years between “us” and “them,” we already sometimes echo the wretched Alfgar’s words of his own era, “What does it matter what she felt? [. . . ] as long as you are on the winning side [. . . i]n the end it is all the same.” And given the diversity of persona across the timeline, it can hardly be disputed there were some who treated even their own times thus. In diplomatic fashion, Lofting has given even such as Alfgar voice to speak to us, even at the risk he may be matted together with slave taking, “men so drunk they pissed where they stood” and “the torn body of a dead baby lying in the mud.” '
For more, click the link at the top. Its worth reading, even just to see Lisl Zlitin's genius!

If you would like to win a copy of Sons of the Wolf, email me @
Before the Second Sleep is Lisl Zlitini's blog, I highly recommend it.

Sunday, 9 June 2013


Hi Carol, welcome to my blog! 

Thank you very much for having me as a guest on your blog today, Paula. I hope to be interesting about my debut novel The Handfasted Wife and answer your interview questions with consideration for your readers. 

You're welcome Carol. am very excited to have you here. Here goes then! I believe this is your first novel, what inspired you to write a book about Edith Swan-Neck?

After university I was a history teacher in London so I assumed that I knew a great deal about The Battle of Hastings and The Norman Conquest. Tasks my students enjoyed were drawing their own vignettes inspired by The Bayeux Tapestry and reading ‘snippits’ from primary sources. I have always loved writing and was thrilled when I was accepted for the Oxford Diploma in Creative Writing, a two-year evening course.  I had a radio play to write as part of the course and a visit to Normandy with our village Twinning Association provided the material for the play. The short film supporting the Tapestry at Bayeux suggested that Edith Swan-Neck, King Harold’s common-law wife, identified his body parts after the Battle of Hastings. When I began to research I found out three other interesting facts.  Gytha, Harold’s mother, offered gold in return for his body(The Song of Hastings circa 1067/8). The Bayeux Tapestry showed a vignette of a woman fleeing a burning house with a child just before the battle scenes. Some historians think this could be Edith and her son Ulf who was taken as a child hostage into Normandy.Shockingly, I discovered that Edith Swan-Neck, recorded in legends as the great love of Harold’s life, was set aside in 1066 for a new political marriage. She was only a hand-fasted wife. My play was to be about Edith Swan-Neck’s experience of loss and disaster. This story haunted me so much that when I was accepted for a PhD in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London, some years later, I did not write the Dickensian novel I had planned, but instead returned to the royal women of 1066. I wanted to tell a woman’s story, to make her live and feel, and to provide readers with a sense of how battle, loss and change could have affected her life. 

Thanks Carol, that is a very moving thought. It must have been so traumatic to have to search for your man among the human carnage of battle. Although this is a work of fiction, it is based on historical fact. How did you go about your research?

Women were marginalised on the Historical Record. Royal women only get a few lines. These royal women had an interesting story. Since I was a research student I had access to The Bodleian Library in Oxford. There I was able to sit in my dusty corner day after day, exploring old chronicles, research papers, journals and a heap of secondary material on the subject of The Norman Conquest. My starting point was, in fact, The Waltham Chronicle, where I saw for myself the story that Edith identified Harold’s body parts by marks only known to her. I read everything I could in primary and secondary sources about Edith Swan-Neck, Queen Edith, Harold’s sister, and Countess Gytha. Academic conferences, in particular one on The Bayeux Tapestry at The British Museum, provided me with a wealth of information, analysis and understanding concerning this marvelous embroidery. I used to embroider myself. Equally, I read everything I could about life during this great period of change and,importantly, I kept organised notes.  As one experience and one book would lead to another I felt as if time paused as I was teleported into a past world. The more I learned the more I needed to explore further and so on. However, research for a novel is the part of the iceberg that lies below the surface of the water. It is the story that must take you, the readers, into the recreated medieval world, so you have the illusion that you are experiencing life as it might have been then. That is the magic of historical fiction.

Beautifully put Carol. Apart from Edith Swan-Neck are there any other important female characters in your book that you really like?

I love them all but especially Gytha, Harold’s mother because she stood up to William at Exeter and refused to hand over her dower city. What a presence and what strength! She is dynamic and shows it. I imagine her shaking a stick with an eagle’s head at her foes and ringing a little bell to summon her ladies.

Haha! Yes. I can imagine her being like that. What was the most enjoyable aspect of writing The Handfasted Wife?

I rise early to write and begin my day with an imagined world that I am creating. I find I am movingcharacters around in my head, eves-dropping on their conversations, feeling their sorrow and occasionally their joys too. The Handfasted Wife is an historical adventure brim-full of escape and pursuit and it was a lot of fun to write. Of course, I frequently burned the breakfast toast because I became so immersed in their world that I forgot our modern world.

Will we be hearing anymore about Edith in future books?

In a word, ‘Yes’.

How exciting!What are you working on now?

The Handfasted Wife is the first novel in my trilogy Daughters of Hastings. I am half way through a first draft of the second book, Countess of the North. This is the story of Gunnhild (Edith’s younger daughter) and her elopement from Wilton Abbey in 1075. It is rooted in the historical record and is a beautiful story to write. She is a very determined and feisty heroine. Watch out for her! She will be coming your way soon.

Thanks Carol, I really cant wait to read The Handfasted Wife

You can follow Carol  @carolmcgrath on Twitter

Friday, 17 May 2013

PAULA'S PEOPLE: Guest of the Month, author Michael Wills talks about his new release Three Kings - One Crown

Michael Wells

Hi Mike, welcome to my blog and thanks for coming along to answer questions about yourself and your current work Three Kings one Crown. Congratulations on being published. This must have been an exciting project for you to work on and I expect it has taken you years of research and hard work to get it all on paper and then in print.

Yes It has Paula, but first let me say thank you for inviting me to be a  guest on your blog.

·         How does it feel to finally hold your book in your hand and see it in lovely print?

A wonderful feeling. As regards the content, well others will judge, but as far as the cover is concerned, I think that it looks great!

·         What made you go assisted publishing and what led you to chose SilverWood books?

Well, when I finished my first book, I started sending query letters to publishers. It was a time consuming business. I could handle the disappointments, I had no unrealistic expectations, I was after all a novice novelist. However, not being a patient person, I quickly got frustrated. I have to confess that I am not exactly in the first flush of adulthood; I was impatient to get on with my next writing project. I thought to myself, “If you are confident that your book is good enough to be published, then prove it, spend some of your own money getting it out there”.

At the HNS Conference I attended a seminar at which Helen Hart was present. I was impressed by what she had to say. At that stage I had not heard of SilverWood. Subsequently, I noted that several writers whom I respect, were using the services of a firm called SilverWood. I checked out the company, and lo, the owner was Helen. I thought that their prices were reasonable, so I decided to place my manuscript for “Three Kings – One Crown” with them. A decision which I have certainly not regretted.

·         Also being a fan of this period in history I know why I am drawn to this time but I was wondering what it is about the 11thc that has inspired your story?

My primary fascination is with the Vikings. I suppose this is because I spent several years living in Scandinavia. As I hope my readers recognise, my writing style is very much concerned with interweaving the fiction with real events and recorded happenings. In preparing my manuscripts I concluded that it was impossible to research one aspect of the 11th century in isolation, so I had a thoroughly enjoyable time trying to make sense of the complications of this incredibly turbulent period. It is an absolutely absorbing time in history. The challenge for a novelist is to be selective about the amount of historical detail to include, while retaining a story which relates credibly to “real” history.

So how did your characters develop and have you based them on anyone in particular?

I have wondered the same thing! With both books, before I started writing, I knew how the book would start and I had a precise plan about how they would end. The long bit in between and the people in it were the product of imagination, sleepless hours and research. So who were the characters? My main fictional protagonists are male and often they reflect the qualities and vices of people I have known. What I do is to take the characters from their secure, normal existences and force them into situations which are outside their experience. The way in which they react is decided by the role which I have created in my mind. This role is often dictated by the real person I am relating them to. For example, Torkil in Three Kings – One Throne, is initially selfish and idle. Then he has an unexpected experience which gives him direction and ambition. Unfortunately, his new enthusiasm is so strong that he is prepared to ignore other responsibilities to fulfil this ambition. I am sure that I am not alone in having met people like this.

·         Your book covers a wide area, Scandinavia, the Isle of Wight, much of England and Normandy and this is reflected in your descriptions of them in the book. Did you visit these places to get a feel for them as you wrote your book?

Yes, I think that this is very important to me in my writing. I visited all the places mentioned in the book together with my very patient wife, with the exception of Novgorod. I realise that I am privileged, as a retired person, to have the time and means to travel. Such places as Uppsala, Kiev, Istanbul and Roskilde really are inspirational. And I had many adventures on mountains, rough seas and in mosquito infested forests, but one of the most extraordinary experiences was to arrive on our boat at a harbour on a small island in Sweden and find that of all the hundreds of people there, we were the only ones not dressed as Vikings! It was the annual Viking Market.
·         Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

I am very fond of Ivar, the Danish boy slave. Despite his initial lowly status, through steadfastness, guile and unquestioning loyalty to his master, he survives to become a  wealthy freeman.

·         Who would be your least favourite character and why?

Undoubtedly Tostig, Earl Harold’s brother. This man was prepared not only to betray his brother, but even to facilitate a foreign king taking the English crown.

·         Tell us about Finn’s story, the novel that you wrote before Three Kings, One Crown.

Finn is the youngest of three brothers who lived in a small settlement in Lapland in the late tenth century. He was persuaded by the dominant older brother to abandon their parents and to travel south to seek a better life. They eventually reached the realm of King Erik, (a real character), and found themselves forced into slavery. Through the resourcefulness of the oldest brother they escaped and eventually reached Denmark where they embarked on a Viking expedition to Britain. All went well for them, though not for their victims, until through overconfidence they found themselves trapped by Anglo-Saxons.

·         What are you working on now and what do you have planned for the future?

I should be working on the third book in the Finn’s Legacy Trilogy, (Once more I know the beginning and the end, but not the middle!). However, I came across a story which was too alluring to resist. I have taken an excursion seven hundred years further on to the American War of Independence and the tragic story of the decimation of an English regiment. The book begins in rural Hampshire and ends in Vermont. I have written the English based first half of the book and I am going to Canada and Vermont in the autumn to do field research for the second half. Then, next in line is to return to finish the trilogy….but I have a longing to write a Viking story for teenagers, which is seriously threatening the planned order!

Thanks so much for coming along and giving us this great insight into you and your book. Best of luck for the future!

You can buy Mike's book Three Kings - One Crown here 

You can follow the rest of the tour at :

Jaffa Reads Too (Saturday 18th May)
Because this Girl Loves books (19th May)

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

PAULA'S PEOPLE: Guest of the Month, WWII Veteran Daphne Farrow


Today I'd like to welcome young Daphne Farrow who is only 91 years young to my blog as a guest Funny Things Happened to Me on the Way to Old Age. At first I was perturbed by this competition, after all, I had the privileged 'signing' table and thought that a little charming old lady would be more likely to win customers than I was going to. But soon my fears began to melt away as we somehow molded into a double act. If someone bought Daphne's book, I would look at them and smile and say, "Well, there's no point in me telling you about mine is there?" Instead of running up to the till in an effort to avoid me, I found that they would stop and ask me what I was selling and after giving them my carefully rehearsed spiel, they'd by one of my books as well! It may have had something to do with it being Christmas that both Daphne and I sold quite a few copies that day mostly as a tag team and we both struck up a lovely friendship.
 I met Daphne in John Pye's The Bookshop bookshop in the lovely Sussex medieval High St of  East Grinstead. I was doing a book signing in the week running up to Christmas and Daphne, who is a regular feature in The Bookshop, was there to hand sell her book,

Daphne's book is a collection of stories about her life. It is a fantastic insight into life in the 20's, 30's and surviving the Plymouth blitz and serving as a WAAF officer.I was so intrigued by Daphne and her story that I wanted to let my friends and readers know about this wonderful sweet lady who had put her fond memories of her experiences down on paper.In two years, Daphne has managed to sell over 600 copies purely through The Bookshop and I thought I would introduce her to a wider audience by inviting her to be a guest on my blog.

So please welcome the lovely Daphne Farrow!

So Tell me where you were born Daphne? 

I'm from Plymouth, a Devonshire lass. 

What made you decide to write your book Daphne?  

 My daughter Annie kept nagging me to and I gave in because I wanted to make people laugh. 

How would you describe your book?

Light-hearted and exact!

What was it like in the RAF?

I was a staff driver at HQ and later commissioned to become a technical officer.  I had to go on a 6 week course that would have normally taken 3 years! We had to cram a lot of learning into those 6 weeks.  There was a camaraderie and friendship and we all had one thing in common, the determination to survive and fightback. 

What was the most exciting moment of your life? 

Meeting my husband. I had always wanted to fly and he was a pilot and took out in a Halifax Bomber over the field and I was so worried we weren't going to get above the trees. He just told me to hang on to the compass so i didn't fall over! It was the most exhilarating, heart stopping moment of my life but it was wonderful as we flew above the trees!

What or who are your inspirations?

I love music, Big Band music like Victor Sylvester, Classical music : Mozart's piano concerto no 23 and I loved dancing to the music of Strauss. My husband used to teach ballroom dancing so I loved that sort of music.

What have been your favourite books?

I love Agatha Christie books, they keep you in suspense

What is your favourite part of your book?

Absolutely no question, the part where I tell about the day Clifford, my husband flew me through the Northern Lights. As we flew by the beautiful chiffon colours I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. Not even the Queen could have done better! 

Me and the lovely Daphne in The Bookshop

Many thanks to Daphne for allowing me to interview her and tell the world about her wonderful book which can be bought on line here or on Amazon or The Bookshop

If you would like to know more about Daphne checkout her website at

Saturday, 23 March 2013

PAULA'S PEOPLE: Guest of the month Dave McCall who writes as David Ebsworth

Please welcome David Ebsworth!

View AssassinsMark-cover.jpg in slide showDavid Ebsworth is the pen name of writer, Dave McCall, a former negotiator and Regional Secretary for the Transport & General Workers’ Union. He was born in Liverpool but has lived for the past thirty years in Wrexham with his wife, Ann. Since their retirement in 2008, the couple have spent about six months of each year in southern Spain. Dave began to write seriously in the following year, 2009. His debut novel, The Jacobites' Apprentice, was critically acclaimed by the Historical Novel Society who deemed it "worthy of a place on every historical fiction bookshelf." But he's here today to launch his new novel, The Assassin's Mark.
Anyway, over to you, David.
View Profile.gif in slide show Well first, thanks very much for welcoming me to the blog. It's a great privilege to be here. And especially today, as you say, to launch my second novel, The Assassin’s Mark.  It's set in 1938, towards the end of the Spanish Civil War, and follows the trials and tribulations of left-wing reporter Jack Telford, stuck on a tour bus with a very strange mixture of other travellers as he tries to uncover the hidden truths beneath the conflict. But, in the words of the synopsis, "Jack must contend first with his own gullibility, the tragic death of a fellow-passenger, capture by Republican guerrilleros, a final showdown at Spain's most holy shrine and the possibility that he has been badly betrayed. Betrayed and in serious danger."
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was researching a novel about the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War and came across a paper on the Battlefield Tours that Franco launched – mainly for British tourists – before the war was even finished. It was too good a story to ignore.
What genre does your book fall under?
Historical thriller with a generous amount Agatha Christie and a splash of Rick Stein, seasoned with a pinch of the picaresque.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I always picture actors in my main character roles anyway so, in this case, Christopher Eccleston as Jack Telford and Rachel Weisz as Valerie Carter-Holt.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A Christie-esque thriller set on a battlefield tour bus towards the end of the Spanish Civil War.
Is  your book self-published or represented by an agency?
I spent a long time looking for agents and "traditional publishers" when I wrote Jacobites. A lot of people that I respect were very supportive about it but the agents I contacted were either too rude to even acknowledge me, or told me it wouldn't fit their lists, or liked it but weren't taking on any more new authors. Also, in meeting many other wordsmiths, I realised that there's a huge mythology about "traditional publishers". It's generally thought that, first, they pay their authors a generous advance; second, that they get your work automatically onto bookstore shelves; and, third, that they do all the marketing for you. It's a load of nonsense for all but a tiny minority. So, being passionate about my writing, and having market-tested a bit, I decided to go "independent", publishing with the help of SilverWood Books ( and  using their high quality professional backing (registrations, typesetting, design, proofing, etc.) but using my own editor (the inimitable Jo Field) and jacket cover graphic designer (the indefatigable and innovative Cathy Helms). I’ve found it a fantastic way for a new writer to get published and I love the buzz of doing my own marketing.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I started to write in February 2011 and finished the first draft (180,000 words) in October that year – then travelled with it through all its locations in Northern Spain to check the “feel” and complete the first re-write (168,000 words). The final version is 152,000 words.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
C J Sansom’s Winter in Madrid; Dave Boling’s Guernica; Rebecca Pawel’s Death of a Nationalist; Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?
Long list, I’m afraid. Old comrades like Jack Jones and Frank Deagan from whom I first learned about the “real” experience of the Spanish Civil War. Spanish family friends who lived through the war and Franco’s repression that followed it. Wonderful historians like Antony Beevor and Paul Preston who’ve never lost sight of the Spanish Civil War’s significance for all of us. Professor Sandie HolguĂ­n who introduced me to the bus tours that feature centrally in the story.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
The Spanish Civil War is badly neglected by English-language fiction writers so, at one level, I wanted the novel to be informative as well as entertaining. I’d like it to be a “must” for all those who already have an affection for Spain and maybe want to learn a bit more about the country’s history and culture – while still being able to sit on a beach with a good pot-boiler and need to keep “turning the pages.”

For more about David's previous novel, The Jacobites’ Apprentice, and other relevant information, you can visit his main website...

To Read my review of The Jacobites' Apprentice click here

Good luck Dave!